iddlesex Community College held its 45th graduation ceremony on May 31, presenting associate degrees or certificates in the arts and sciences to 328 students. MxCC also announced Emily O’Brien of Middletown as the class valedictorian, the first time the school has recognized this honor.
Jordan Watson, a former MxCC student, opened the ceremony by singing the National Anthem. Dr. Anna Wasescha presided over commencement, which was the first in her role as MxCC president. She began by thanking active members of the armed services who were in attendance, and asking them to stand. She then asked members of the Reserves, National Guard, veterans, and family members of those in the armed services to stand and be recognized, creating a poignant visual reminder of how so many in the community work and sacrifice to help preserve our democracy.
Dr. Wasescha then turned her attention to the graduates. “I feel so privileged to conferred degrees on you as you reach this major milestone, complete this important rite of passage, and begin a new phase of your life,” she said. On the MxCC website, she reminded students that “they always have a place here at Middlesex, and are welcome back anytime.”
Meriden Mayor Michael Rohde offer greetings and words of encouragement to students, followed by Peter Woolard, MxCC student representative. Peter spoke to the audience about the varied and often non-traditional “journey in pursuit of knowledge” of so many of the graduate candidates, and the tremendous support of MxCC faculty and staff. “I hope we will be a credit to all of you,” he said.
Connecticut State Representative Phil Miller (D-36th District) delivered the commencement address, telling students they should be inspired by their progress. He told students this day was about where they are headed, and noted that MxCC helped equip them with the skills and knowledge to think, reason, and achieve.
Hannah Watkins, 2011 MxCC graduate and 2011 Connecticut Student Poet, read an original poem, “Becoming a Free Poet,” about learning how to speak truth with honesty. “MxCC is where I found my voice, and it changed me,” she said. “A voice is nothing if it is not used, or if you keep it silent.”
Academic Dean Steven Minkler presented the Distinguished Service Award to Nancy Ballek from Ballek’s Garden Center in East Haddam. Nancy has worked closely with MxCC this past year to help transform the college campus landscape to feature sustainable gardens. She has designed a human equity garden, four rain gardens, meadows, the president’s permaculture orchard, along with several circle gardens. Sustainability has been a major focus of Dr. Wasescha’s vision for MxCC, achieved through many improved practices (“Such as the recycled and recyclable graduation gowns students are wearing for the first time,” she told the audience).
Dean Steve Minkler presented MxCC’s first-ever valedictorian to Emily H. O’Brien of Middletown who earned a perfect 4.0 in all of her classes. Dean Minkler was joined by Adrienne Maslin, interim Dean of Academic Affairs, to present four Board of Trustees’ Medallions for Academic Excellence to students who have achieved 4.0 grade point average and earned 50 percent of all credits at MxCC. Recipients were:
• Susan Bukowski of Clinton, Fine Arts Major
• Susan Van Ness of Middletown, Multimedia Major
• Jennifer Pittman of Ivoryton, Fine Arts Major
• Emily O’Brien of Middletown, Science and General Studies Major
MxCC Foundation Chairperson George Eames presented two Pritchett-Taylor Scholarship Awards, which honors those graduates with the highest cumulative GPA:
• Emily O’Brien of Middletown
• Susan M. Van Ness of Middletown